TikTok Newsletter 34

Political Activism. Porn. TikTok Success

Hi subscriber,

this is Understanding TikTok your weekly infusion 💉 of TikTok related news. My name is Marcus.

Last week i talked about TikTok Feuilleton on german public radio DLF (german), today i talk about High Density TikTok at Space for Transformation (german). And together with Chris Köver from Netzpolitik.org i handed in a first draft of our study for Rosa Luxemburg Foundation “Kurze Spektakel: TikTok als Ort für neue Formen der politischen Kommunikation”  that will be published in April. Oh, and you can still apply for my course TikTok für Journalist:innen April, 20th (yet again german for now, sorry i am happy to offer an english version too).

Today we talk about:

✊ The next platform for political activism
🏆 The secret to TikTok success – unveiled at last
🍒 Pole-dancing, porn & sex education




✊ The next platform for political activism

A recent📍study by Nuurrianti Jalli  on Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar "has concluded that TikTok has helped distribute political content and increase awareness among global TikTok users of what is happening in Southeast Asia."

TikTok is extremely popular among Gen Z and millennials in the region. “Older audiences have also started to join the app, including politicians and government ministries in Southeast Asia. For example, Malaysia’s former prime minister, Mahathir Mohammad, created a TikTok account to reach younger audiences. In Indonesia, the Ministry of Public Relations Bureau created a TikTok account in March 2019 with the same intent, reaching out to the youth”, writes Jalli, an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Northern State University. 

Jalli used a snowball technique with keywords like “omnibuslaw”, “thaiprotest” and “myanmarprotest” to find videos related. She manually scraped trending hashtags on highly viewed videos to identify other trending hashtags “because, so far, no available tool has been specifically developed to scrape data on TikTok.” Without having tried myself, i have found these tutorials:

+ How to Collect Data from TikTok (Tutorial) (Juli 2020)
+ How To Scrape Data From TikTok Without an API! (November 2020)

Github lists 36 public repositories matching #tiktok-scraper. I am happy to learn more here.

🏆 The secret to TikTok success – unveiled at last

Lance Ulanoff is an American tech and social media commentator. He has 94K followers on Twitter. And was Mashable´s Editor in Chief. He has written 📍 a Medium article summing up some advice and techniques on how to succeed on TikTok. Quote: “There is no shortage of theories, some of them contradictory, about how to go TikTok viral.” 👈


It seems as if there are only two kind of people. The ones being successful on TikTok. And the ones thinking about how to be successful. Most advice therefore comes down to assumptions. And – truth told – taking care about creativity, consistency, quality and effort as Ulanoff suggests, sounds right but is not a precise plan on how to proceed.


Here are my two cents: How do you define success? Becoming the next Charli D’Amelio is one thing, reaching, teaching, entertaining and interacting with a well-defined target audience is something completely different. So instead of ruminating about a hidden algorithm based formula to success, you better sit down and do your user centered design homework. Then prototype, test and iterate. That is the macro-approach. And on an individual TikTok micro-level do not forget the 3-step: Hook (get people’s attention quick), Value (contentual goal & emotional goal), Call to Action (encourages audience to do something). That’s it. Ask Anthony Hopkins.

🍒 Pole-dancing, porn & sex education

On TikTok, it’s impossible to have a nuanced discussion about sex work, writes Rebecca Jennings: “On TikTok, where only a certain kind of video will always rise to the top — typically one that’s either exceptionally funny, cringey, inspirational, shocking, beautiful, or controversial — those generalizations have a way of amplifying the most extreme views.” Besides that TikTok has a history of censorship. I am not talking about money worshipping over at Douyin. Just read about Dr. Carolina Are who was censored for her pole-dancing videos, written by Chris Stokel-Walker

Meanwhile Wired has a story about TikTok accidentally conquering the porn industry.
The app obviously has a profound influence on the sex industry. Quote: “Pornhub, for example, is filled with videos mimicking one of the app’s popular trends or challenges, or sexualised compilations of clips downloaded from TikTok – often without the creator's consent or knowledge, and, troublingly, sometimes featuring people who appear to be under the age of 18.”

On TikTok besides sex workers working their way around TikTok’s policies there is a growing number of gynecologists and psychologists, e.g. Dr. Jennifer Lincoln. In her latest TikTok video she is reminding her audience that there are a lot of self proclaimed sex exports without real expertise on the platform. This can not be said of Umut Özdemir. The Berlin-based graduate psychologist discusses menstruation, mastrubation and micro-penises (interview in german). 

Doktorsex is another german account. Powered by german health insurance DAK and digital studio Drive Beta Dr. Sheila de Liz and Volker Wittkamp have piled up an impressive 14M Likes since July 2020 with videos about all things sex and sexuality.

That’s it. What else?

You have probably seen the three deep fake videos of Tom Cruise? The account @deeptomcruise has deleted them but the debate lingers on. Here is an article on Why deepfake creators love Tom Cruise.

If you missed the first round of the so called TikTok generation war you can still join for round two. If you have too much time feel free to scroll through the thread. If you do not have any time at all, please do not worry. Long story short: Millenials get older too. (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

You want a special topic covered? You have seen the best TikTok account ever? You do not like Baked Feta Pasta? No worries. Just write a quick mail. I will answer. Promise.